Angola

Angola: WFP employee critically injured in landmine blast

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JOHANNESBURG, 21 March (IRIN) - A WFP employee was critically injured at the weekend when the vehicle which he was driving detonated an anti-tank mine in southern Angola's Cunene Province, a WFP spokeswoman said Tuesday.
Benjamin Antonio Liberdade, 44, an Angolan national and father of 10 has worked for WFP since 1994. He was evacuated by an aircraft operated by Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) to hospital within hours of the blast on Saturday outside the town of Cuvelai, some 900 km southeast of the capital, Luanda.

Joao Kalombo, a teenager standing at the roadside was also lightly injured, the spokeswoman, Maria Flynn told IRIN. Other passengers in the four-wheel drive vehicle included a WFP employee and a local government official, neither of whom were injured.

"It is with deep sadness that I received this terrible news," said Ronald Sibanda, the WFP Representative in Angola. "To lay mines near civilian populations is completely inhuman. The victims are almost always innocent people who present no threat to the warring parties."

Flynn said the incident occurred about 1630 (1530 GMT) on Saturday at a new camp for displaced people some 7 km from Cuvelai. At the time, WFP staff were monitoring a food distribution programme for some 1,000 beneficiaries by their local implementing partner, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NCR). Two thirds of the people in the camp had received their monthly rations when the landmine was detonated. Distribution was suspended pending the outcome of a UN investigation.

"Our employees risk their lives every day in the service of the hungry and destitute of this world," Sibanda said. "We try to give them as much protection as possible, such as installing ballistic blankets in our field vehicles. We believe that this protection kept at least two of the passengers free of injury."

In Angola, five WFP employees were killed in the line of duty between 1996 and 1999. Several others were wounded.

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